An experimental study on the effects of peer drinking norms on adolescents' drinker prototypes.Addict Behav. 2014 Jan; 39(1):85-93.AB
Adolescents form impressions about the type of peers who drink (i.e., drinker prototypes). The evaluation of, and perceived similarity to these prototypes are related to adolescents' drinking. Peer drinking norms play an important role in the formation of prototypes. We experimentally examined whether manipulation of peer norms changed the evaluation of and perceived similarity to drinker prototypes and whether these changes were moderated by peers' popularity.
In a pre-test, we assessed heavy drinker, moderate drinker and abstainer prototypes, drinking behaviors and peer-perceived popularity among 599 adolescents. Additionally, 88 boys from this sample participated in a simulated chat room, in which they interacted with peers from school. These peers were in fact pre-programmed e-confederates, who were either popular or unpopular and who communicated either pro-alcohol or anti-alcohol norms. After the chat room interaction we assessed participants' drinker prototypes.
Participants exposed to anti-alcohol norms were more negative about, and perceived themselves as less similar to heavy drinker prototypes, than participants exposed to pro-alcohol norms. We found no effects of peer norms on moderate drinker and abstainer prototypes. Effects were not moderated by peers' popularity. We did find a main effect of popularity on perceived similarity to all prototypes. This indicated that participants rated themselves as more similar to heavy and moderate drinker prototypes and less similar to abstainer prototypes when they interacted with unpopular peers than with popular peers.
Exposure to anti-alcohol norms of peers leads adolescents to form more negative prototypes of the heavy drinker. This could be an important finding for prevention and intervention programs aimed to reduce alcohol consumption among adolescents.